While there has been a decline in cases of golden staph infections in Australian hospitals in recent times, new research has shown that there has been an increase in the Staphylococcus aureus infection outside of hospitals in Aussie communities.
Staphylococcus aureus is a dangerous bloodstream infection. It is harmless in most cases but can cause an array of infections if bacteria enter the body through a cut in the skin. Golden staph is typically carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people but has been known to cause death when it enters the bloodstream.
In most cases, bacteria are spread from skin-to-skin contact or by touching contaminated surfaces. In some Australian communities, the infection has increased dramatically since 2011. In fact, research has shown that in Victoria, infection rates have increased by 8 per cent each year from 2011 and by 6 per cent in Western Australia.
The new research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia by researchers at the University of Melbourne, analysed data from 93 Victorian public hospitals and 58 Western Australian public hospitals from January 2011 to December 2016.
A total of 10,320 Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections were reported, with 7,262 in Victoria and 3,058 in Western Australia. Of those, 6,800 infections were community-associated. Worryingly, the cases were higher among older men.
For those over the age of 60, the standardised incidence in this group was 50.9 cases in Victoria and 56.7 cases per 100,000 person-years in Western Australia. This is twice the incidence of among women of the same age. For Victorian women, the standardised incidence is 24.7 cases per 100, 000 person-years, while it’s 24.9 cases for Western Australian women.
Because some infected people would have been treated at private hospitals, researchers said the figures underestimate the incidence of golden staph. The next step for researchers is to characterise the isolates responsible for the infection.
According to Better Health Victoria, the best way to prevent golden staph in the long-term is to follow a more conservative approach to using antibiotics, maintaining high hygiene practices in both hospitals and the community, as well as putting good infection prevention and control measures such as hand washing in place.
It follows a 2017 study published by the Australian National University that found the amount of staph infections resistant to antibiotic intervention has increased at an alarming rate over the past decade. Staph infection outbreaks occurred mostly in hospitals at an 11.5 per cent rate in the early 2000s, but the figure increased to 56.9 per cent in 2017.
Staphylococcus symptoms can vary from the mild to the serious. Symptoms can be caused by the disease directly infecting the patient or by the staph bacteria producing toxins throughout the body. Localised staph infection symptoms include boils, pus, red and swollen skin and abscess. Severe staph infections can result in death.
It’s always important to talk to a GP or health professional if showing symptoms.